PROVO — The last time BYU junior cornerback Austin McChesney played in a football game, in November 2016, he recorded a 37-yard interception return in the first quarter of a Cougar victory at Cincinnati.
Later in the quarter, while defending on a kick return, McChesney suffered a season-ending knee injury.
He underwent surgery on the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and he endured the grueling rehab.
Then the first week of fall camp last August, McChesney blew out his other knee. Same injury. Same rehab. Another premature end to a season.
“About nine months after my first surgery, I tore the other one. It was a week after I was cleared fully,” said the former Lone Peak High star who hasn’t been able to participate in spring practices. “I’ve got two fully repaired knees ready to go. Hopefully another one doesn’t happen.”
What was it like to go through the same injury twice in a short amount of time?
“It was easier the second time around because you know what to expect. You understand the pain,” McChesney said. “With the first one, I had a (medial collateral ligament tear) too. Mentally, I knew what was going to happen. It’s been a lot easier with the second one.”
McChesney, who had never experienced any previous knee issues until the incident at Cincinnati, is looking to be cleared to participate in workouts by the end of May and is planning to be back to full strength by the time fall camp opens in August.
“It’s been very humbling, to be honest,” he said. “A lot of trials but I think everything happens for a reason.”
Yes, McChesney has a positive perspective on the pair of season-ending knee injuries.
About a week after his latest surgery, he and his wife found out they were expecting a baby. Their son is due to be born in about a month.
“It’s been a good six or seven months to be home with my wife,” McChesney said. “We’re excited to start our family.”
He’s found other silver linings amid frustrating circumstances.
“I just feel like if it needed to happen, it needed to happen,” McChesney said. “I feel like my knees are stronger now than they were before.”
McChesney said it’s not too uncommon for athletes to suffer ACL injuries to both knees.
“Sometimes the notches in your knee are different. There’s a lot of compensation that happens and your other knee actually tends to get a little more broken down from that,” he said. “I knew there was a bigger possibility that it could happen to the other one. I wasn’t super surprised, but it was a setback.”
Another positive? Sitting out all of last season means the 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior will get to play with his younger brother, Jackson, a running back who signed with the Cougars in 2017. Jackson is currently serving an LDS Church mission in Chile.
“That’s also a blessing,” said Austin, who served a mission in San Diego. “It will be fun to play with him.”
Because McChesney has been relegated to the sidelines during spring ball, he’s been intently observing the action.
“It’s different because there’s a lot of new defensive implementation. There’s been a learning curve but at the same time, the intensity’s still there,” he said. “The offense’s intensity has gone up. It’s been hard watching just because I feel like my body feels great and I want to be out there. At the same time, it’s good to be on the sideline to be able to watch and learn. Watching the team helps me a lot.”
While Dayan Ghanwoloku and Troy Warner have been switched from cornerback to safety during the offseason, McChesney is planning to stay at corner.
“They were thinking about moving me to safety but I’ll be a corner,” he said. “I played safety in high school. You have more freedom there. But in college, I’ve enjoyed corner and it’s grown on me. I have no problem staying. I love it. Wherever they think the best opportunity for me to play is, I’ll be there.”
And so will McChesney's pair of surgically repaired knees.